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Brunson extols God’s power in preaching & ministry

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–David Huxley was an incredibly strong man who in October 1997 pulled a 180-ton airplane 100 yards in one minute and 29 seconds. But a much greater power is displayed, however, when a man enters the cockpit and fires up the engines, lifting it thousands of feet into the air.

Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, said the ministry can be like that, too: Ministers are often like Huxley, trying to pull their ministry to success, relying on their own strength, while Jesus waits for them to allow him to display true power in the midst of their struggling.

“That is the power you and I have to tap into if we’re going to touch the world for Jesus Christ,” said Brunson, the featured speaker in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual Gurney Evangelism Lecture series, March 5-6.

Focusing on Mark 5, which he called the “chapter of the incurables,” Brunson first turned his attention to Jesus’ ministry, which he described as an “overcoming” ministry, noting first that ministers have to overcome several barriers before being able to touch people for Christ, including position, tradition and interruption.

The barrier of position, Brunson said, is a dangerous barrier to overcome not only in others but in the ministers themselves. Jairus, who is described in Mark 5 as a leader of the synagogue, was forced to abandon everything he had conspired to do to harm Jesus and to humble himself to Jesus and ask Jesus to heal his daughter. His position was preventing him from receiving a touch from Christ. While Jairus’ yielding to Christ was a difficult thing to do, Brunson said ministers today are tempted to allow position and career to become too important.

As a result, he said, pastors are treating the ministry as a profession and not a calling.

“I see, and am troubled so, about so many men who approach it as a profession,” Brunson said. “I don’t have a profession; I have calling in my life; and there is a vast difference between the two.

“If you’re looking for a profession, you need to get into a law school somewhere or you need to get into pharmacy school somewhere or you need to go somewhere else. If you’re not here because God called you, then you’re here for the wrong reason.”

Ministers not only have to overcome barriers of position, tradition and interruption, but also have to overcome a fickle faith in Christ. Brunson noted that those around Jairus were telling him to bury his daughter and leave Jesus alone. Ignoring them, Jesus commanded Jairus to believe — to ignore those around him and have faith. Ministers will find themselves facing that fickle faith in the same way.

“There will be all kinds of voices calling out to you — voices of distraction,” Brunson said. “You’d better be sure that the one voice you listen to is Jesus Christ.”

Above all in ministry, however, Brunson said, ministers must submit to the overcomer, tapping into the true power available in ministry. He noted the guests at Jairus’ house and how they laughed at Jesus’ assertion that the young girl was only asleep, not dead. Jesus put them out of the house because “they had already determined in their minds what God could and could not do.” Brunson challenged students, staff and faculty never to limit God and what he can do in ministry.

Brunson also addressed the power in preaching: namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

He told the story of Billy Graham’s 1955 visit to Cambridge University, where he was invited to speak by a Christian organization. When word got out that he was to speak, the result was scandalous. Professors and students railed against his visit, writing letters to the London Times in protest. Some even threatened to kidnap Graham if he should show up.

Graham did indeed arrive at that small chapel on campus, where 1,200 people had crowded in to hear him, with a line about two miles in length waiting outside.

Even though controversy surrounded him, and even though he’d been slandered in the press, Graham began the message simply with these words, “The Bible says….”

“Our preaching, our teaching, must be inseparably linked to the Word of God,” Brunson said, noting that more than 400 people were saved at Cambridge that night.

Citing 2 Peter 1, Brunson pointed out that Peter was addressing internal persecution in the church. In dealing with those internal problems, Peter focused on the gospel. Peter was deliberate, comprehensive and persistent in presenting the gospel to them, Brunson said, adding that ministers have no right to tamper with it in the pulpit or in the classroom.

“You and I have no right to stand behind a pulpit, or teach a class or lead anybody and come up with something of our own,” he said. “We are called to teach and to preach that which is based on divine revelation and not something that is based in a half-sanctified imagination.”

Brunson lamented the fact that many pastors take different approaches to the Word of God, choosing often to stand over it, manipulating it for their purposes, or to stand beside it, speaking their own meaning into it. He said the pastor should rather stand under the Word, letting it speak for itself, and letting it point to Christ’s power and glorious return.

“I sometimes have yielded to the temptation of adapting my facts to my phrases. A lot of men out there in the pulpit today have fallen in love with the sound of their own voice,” he said. “You cannot impress people with the greatness of Jesus and attempt to impress them with your own greatness at the same time. Either Jesus is going to shine or you’re going to shine.”

Examining the Greek terms that Peter used, Brunson said pastors are to “stir” in such a way as to literally “storm over” their congregation with the gospel with passion and intensity, noting that our time on earth is short and should be spent with intensity in ministry.

Brunson challenged pastors and teachers not to play games with the Bible, noting that sometimes even expository preaching can be hollow if there is no personal experience with Christ. While even the rabbis of Jesus’ day were brilliant in the law, their teaching was legalistic and empty, he said.

“The rabbis were brilliant exegetes, but it was all mental gymnastics,” he said. “If you don’t encounter Christ in every text that you preach, then let me tell you, you’ve done nothing but mental gymnastics.

“When I’ve encountered Christ in the text, then I can preach.”

The Gurney lectures, which feature a key Christian leader each year, were established at the seminary by Mr. and Mrs. J. Thomas Gurney.

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